Peru's Presidential Vote Tightens as Votes Continue to Be Tallied

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski held onto a 0.28 percentage point lead over rival Keiko Fujimori.

Mitra Taj
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Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski waves to followers from his house, in Lima, Peru, June 6, 2016.
Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski waves to followers from his house, in Lima, Peru, June 6, 2016. Credit: Guadalupe Pardo, Reuters
Mitra Taj

REUTERS –Former investment banker Pedro Pablo Kuczynski held onto a 0.28 percentage point lead over rival Keiko Fujimori in Peru's cliffhanger presidential election on Tuesday as votes continued to be tallied two days after polling stations closed.

Ballots from Peruvians living in the United States and Europe were still trickling in and could decide the election. An early tally suggested they would favor Kuczynski, a 77-year-old former prime minister who worked for years on Wall Street.

The margin between the two business-friendly candidates, now about 47,000 votes, had shrunk over the past day and held steady in the latest update by Peru's electoral office, ONPE, on Tuesday.

Preliminary results on Sunday and quick counts of sample ballots by reputable polling firms had put Kuczynski ahead of Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori, by about one percentage point.

"We're optimistic," Kuczynski told reporters from inside a car as he headed to the gym.

With the race so close, Fujimori, who has largely been out of the public eye since Sunday, is not likely to accept defeat unless determined by a final count, a person close to the candidate said on condition of anonymity.

TV images showed Fujimori smiling and waving from a car.

With 95.5 percent of the ballots counted two days after the election, Kuczynski won 50.14 percent of valid votes compared with Fujimori's 49.86 percent, according to ONPE.

More ballots than that – 97 percent – had been processed, but about 300,000 were being questioned due to lack of clarity and would be settled by local electoral panels.

"We have to be very cautious," said Mariano Cucho, the head of ONPE, in broadcast comments. He said a full ballot count will probably not be finished until the weekend.

About a half-million ballots, mostly from Peruvians living in the United States and Europe, were still arriving, according to ONPE. A count of about a third of U.S. votes showed Kuczynski 18 points ahead of Fujimori, and a smaller share of votes from Europe showed a similarly wide lead for Kuczynski.

Market reaction has been muted, as both candidates would continue the country's free-market economic model in the mineral-rich Andean nation.

A week ago, Fujimori had been the favorite to win. But Kuczynski caught up with her in final opinion polls as Peruvians weighed the legacy of her father, who was convicted of corruption and human rights abuse, and scandals involving her own close advisers.

Some Peruvians credit the elder Fujimori with defeating violent Shining Path guerillas and building rural schools during his decade-long rule.

Kuczynski has promised to invest in infrastructure projects and lower sales taxes to revive economic growth that has slowed with tumbling mineral prices.

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